Pro-Gun Control: The Economics of Gun Control

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By: Patrick Leonhardt
Kalaheo High School, Class of 2018

The following editorial was originally printed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday February 4, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

Generally, pro-gun control arguments approach the issue from a human perspective, discussing loss of life, injuries, or preventable massacres. However, gun control also provides an economic boon. “Common-sense” gun control measures, such as universal background checks, no-fly list bans, and specific bans, will preserve the profits or production efficiency of the firearms industry in the United States, reduce economic losses related to gun violence, and make firearms prohibitively expensive to purchase illegally.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates the total contribution of the arms industry to be $42.9 billion or approximately 0.24% of United States GDP. In addition, the firearms industry provides full-time employment for 263,200 Americans. Fortunately, gun control legislation doesn’t actually seem to reduce production or sales. In the year 1994, right after the Brady Bill, which implemented background checks and handgun waiting periods, national production actually increased by about 100,000 units. Thus, we cannot expect severe economic repercussions from similar ownership restriction laws.

Even the ban of specific weapons would have little impact. A majority of firearms produced in the United States are handguns and shotguns, not the military-style weapons that may be subject to bans. A ban on such weapons will make a remarkably small dent on profits, which will be remedied by increased handgun or shotgun sales. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in the years following the Brady Bill, while production did decrease in rifles, it increased in both shotguns and handguns. The industry will remain safe from any significant losses.

The firearms industry does incur relatively high costs on US production, some of which can be remedied through aforementioned “common-sense” gun legislation. Americans pay $8.6 billion in gun-related hospital costs a year.  When we consider more facets of the issue, the bill gets higher. All told, including lost wages, legal proceedings, police investigation, and long term medical costs, gun violence costs the United States $229 billion, according to a recent report from the Mother Jones. This is approximately 1.3% of our GDP, and 87% of those costs are covered by taxpayers. It is worth noting that the gun industry’s contribution to GDP only disproportionately covers about 1/7 of the costs guns violence incurs. However, gun control legislation could cut these costs. Preventing malicious individuals from obtaining high-powered rifles reduces both costs related to injuries and the accompanying legal and investigative fees.

Groups like the NRA often posit that criminals will always obtain firearms, regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, this argument makes little sense economically. By restricting the sale of specific weapons, the government drives down the availability of such weaponry to consumers while simultaneously increasing prices. In addition, such restrictions will likely propel targeted weapons off of the open market and into the “black market.” This shift decreases  access even further, and black market suppliers will inflate prices due to the increased risks and costs of doing business. In the end, restricted weapons become prohibitively expensive to criminal elements.

Specific restrictions on gun ownership would be economically efficient for the United States. Through direct, precise, and well-enforced laws, we can maintain the current contribution of the firearms industry to productivity, cut costs related to gun violence, and prohibitively increase the price of illegal arms. Even in the vacuum, only looking at the impartial, impersonal data, one can see the reality. Gun control greatly enhances the functioning of our nation.